Speaking at the Washington Ireland Programme (WIP) on Friday evening in Derry’s Magee University Great Hall on the issue of Ethnic Minorities in Ireland Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:
“Given that People from ethnic Minorities enrich our society, intellectually, culturally and economically it is important that we welcome them and appreciate the positive contribution that this diversity brings to our society.
“It is also important that we are aware of the difficulties that some encounter in settling into a new society. Unable to establish themselves in the new country, some immigrants become isolated and despondent at times with serious consequences. In extreme cases this sense of isolation and desolation can have fatal outcomes. A case in point and one it would be remiss of me not to mention in the context of this contribution, is that of homeless Polish man, Henryk Piotrowski who was killed in Dublin last week as a result of sleeping in a rubbish skip which was emptied as he slept. It is a sad reflection on our society that any human being should die in this manner.
“When I heard the news I also thought of the Polish Community living in the North and how 28 families had been attacked in Antrim in racist incidents and the 70 Roma families forced to flee South Belfast in recent years because of racist attacks.
“As Junior Minister during my time in the Assembly, I launched an excellent booklet in Omagh for Ethnic Minority Groups called ‘Awakening the Silent Voices’ and I was also able to give continuing support through the Ethnic Minority Development Fund.
“Without doubt prejudice is prevalent in some sections of our society and needs to be challenged to change views of “the other” which manifests itself in sectarian and racist attacks.In this City (Derry) we have a young man, Paul McAuley who was left in a vegetated state after a violent sectarian attack inflicted by bigots as he enjoyed a celebratory BBQ with a group of cross community and ethnic minority friends prior to one of them emmigrating
“By adopting a zero tolerance to sectarianism/racism we will bring about attitudinal change that will help us build a society of equals.
“I would recommend WIP support the demand for a Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland so that no group – ethnic minorities, women, LGB&T or those from any religious denomination etc., experience violation of social and economic rights.”